Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Thirst (2009)
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Written by: Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-Kyeong
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun
Genre: Korean Horror
While loosely based on the novel Therese Raquin by Emile Zola, Thirst takes on the myth of the vampire. Wrapped in the traditional trappings of the Westernized vampire, Thirst is by no means one of such films. A refreshing take on the vampire, Thirst is a vehicle used to explore the deeper and darker aspects of the human animal. Remaining unpredictable, this film questions a person’s nature toward good and evil while doing so in an engaging manner, mixed with black comedy. Directed by Park Chan-wook, famous for Old Boy and Three…Extremes, Thirst is filled with his sense of dark humor and detailed storytelling.
Thirst follows a Catholic priest named Sang-hyun. With a strong belief in his faith, Sang-hyun volunteers at a hospital and provides his priestly services to its patients. As he witnesses death all around him, his faith begins to wan. Due to this he volunteers for a medical experiment to help find a cure for a deadly virus. After being injected with the virus, Sang-hyun becomes sick, is then given a blood transfer that is tainted, and soon dies. After he is declared dead, Sang-hyun rises and is declared a miracle. News soon spreads about his recovery and he is seen as a faith healer. As people begin to flock to Sang-hyun, a childhood friend (Shin Ha-kyun) and his family ask to heal him of his cancer. After he does, the family invites the priest into their home. It is at this point that Sang-hyun begins to crave blood and finds that he has no control over these cravings. While he slowly descends into indecency, he falls in love with his childhood friend’s wife (Kim Ok-bin). It is the lust for his friend’s wife that brings him closer to the violence and bloodshed that is about to come.
Song Kang Ho is one of Korea’s most loved actors and this love is rightly justified. Kang Ho has acted in several wildly popular foreign films such as The Host and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Each of these films are excellent. As Sang-hyun, Kang Ho is able to take on the complex role of a priest while bringing across clearly his downward spiral into a humans basic needs without the rules that society has placed on them. These needs being feeding, fighting, and fornicating. Song Kang Ho is able to remain somewhat naive and innocent as his character breaks all the moral laws he pledged his life to.
Kim Ok Bin is amazing as Kang Ho’s love interest. While seeming to be a lonely woman trapped in a loveless marriage, Ok Bin shifts seamlessly between this empty shell into a remorseless monster. Ok Bin embraces the role of a relentless killer and acts so insane that the viewer is wowed.
Park Chan-wook uses these two incredible actors to add to some of the more unusual portions of the film. This can best be seen after the death of Kang Ho’s husband. After his death, the two begin to have hallucinations of her husband. He begins to haunt the pair by being visible to only them and physically interacting with two while never speaking. One such interaction occurs when the two make love and the husband lays between them. This oddness prevents the film from becoming too heavy and prevents it from becoming preachy.
The only issue one may find with Thirst is that the film runs 133 minutes. If the viewer is like I, as fidgety as a five year old, then watching the entire film may be a bit difficult. The film almost feels like it could be broken into two movies. The problem with that is the first half of the film is completely different then the second half. The first half eases into the second half well which perfectly explains why Thirst being made into two films would be a mistake. If the viewer has more patience then I, they will hardly notice the length of this film.
I had a very difficult time reviewing this film. When a movie leaves you speechless you know there is something very special about it. The storyline is more complex and detailed then the brief blurb that I have written. To write more would give away to much of what the viewer should see for him or herself. Thirst is more than a story about vampires, a love triangle, or the basis needs of the human animal. While being a perfect combination of the three, Thirst is something more. Something that has left me speechless. Thirst is by no means the next Oldboy but that fact does not by any means decrease the greatness of this film.
Thirst receives 4 blood sucking priests out of 5